This a duplicate of my latest post. It seems the first time it went out, the link was broken, taking readers to a page that says, “This is somewhat embarrassing…”
I’ll say. Anyway, here’s the original post:
I was reading a book by a popular Christian author tonight and found myself having a difficult time with his notion of prayer. His thesis (I think) was that the purpose of prayer is to glorify God by recognizing and expressing our dependence upon him.
A quick survey of the web will yield a surprisingly varied collection of attempts to answer the question of the nature and purpose of prayer. Christian blogs, Bible answer forums, Church websites, quotes from popular Christian leaders, and articles from notable theologians and scholars have in common a level of ambiguity (some more than others) when it comes to addressing the topic prayer. Definitions and explanations are often narrow, confusing, unqualified, self-contradictory, or generally unsatisfying.
It doesn’t seem like this should be the case when we are dealing with a practice that is so often observed, taught, and even commanded in the Bible—one that is so central to the Christian life. Did God intend this concept to be so fuzzy and complicated?
I think the problem is that (nearly) everybody is attempting to resolve obvious tensions between what they believe to be true about God with what the Bible seems to reveal about the nature of prayer.
Here are a few examples of some of the different views:
God really responds to our prayers, and things are different because we prayed.
Prayer doesn’t change things; it changes us.
Prayer aligns our will with God’s.
Prayer is actual communication with God.
Prayer is acknowledgement of our dependence on God.
Prayer is a way to refocus.
So, I’m curious. What do you think…and why? What is prayer? What is its purpose? What actual effect does it have?